Helen Posey and Natale Lucido are among Catholics at The Gatesworth senior living residence in Clayton thankful for weekly visits from W. Ashley Gray III, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion from Our Lady of the Pillar Parish who leads weekly Communion services at the residence.
“I get to receive the Body of Christ,” Lucido said, adding that he feels good about being at the services with other people of faith.
Posey agreed, adding that “the Holy Eucharist is the basis of our faith. Having it here is just wonderful.”
Gray has led a Communion service for more than 22 years and only recently missed his duty for the first time, caused by an emergency repair at his home.
His visits didn’t start out as a long-term plan. Gray’s aunt and mom were residents at The Gatesworth, and his aunt asked him to inquire about having a Communion service there. Gray, who already was serving at his parish as an extraordinary minister, asked his pastor about it, and the priest appointed him to the role. He’s supported in his ministry by Marianist Father Tom French, pastor of Our Lady of the Pillar.
When his mom and later his aunt died about seven years after he began, Gray said, “I tried to quit. But that’s easier said than done. The ladies and gentlemen here are very kind, and I stayed on,” he said.
He’s led the Communion services at The Gatesworth and its related McKnight Place assisted living and skilled nursing centers. It takes only about an hour and a half to do all three. The service includes a reading of the Epistle and Gospel for the day and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
Gray works in conjunction with Immacolata Parish, which is responsible for serving The Gatesworth’s residents. Immacolata’s pastor celebrates a Mass there once a month.
“I enjoy it. I get to know the people. Some transition from one area to another, back and forth. It’s a nice little ministry, and people are real good to me,” Gray said.
He added that he’s impressed with the level of activity. “These people are busy. They go every which way. It’s an honor to do what I do. I get a lot more credit than I deserve. I’ve enjoyed bringing Communion to folks, many of whom were used to daily Mass, certainly weekly Mass and Communion. If I can help out in that regard, it’s no problem because it’s real easy to do.”
Before retiring in 2001, Gray was vice president of development at Ranken Technical College. He continues to work on occasion as a fund-raising consultant with small nonprofits. He and his wife enjoy spending time with their four grandchildren, two in St. Louis and two in Atlanta. A Vietnam War veteran, he was a gunnery officer on a troop transport and a destroyer.